The champions of Romania were back in town after only a matter of weeks. The first meeting saw our lack of defensive cover and poor early transfer dealings exposed - and left us crashing out of the Champions League. It was a bitter pill to swallow after a good result in the first leg. Losing to a team we should have progressed past, was difficult to take and made a huge difference to the income generation of the club.
Much was spoken of before the game about revenge. I don't think personally that revenge was the correct phrase, but we definitely had to prove a point.
Unlike the first tie Neil Lennon had a virtually full squad to choose from including games under the belt for Christopher Jullien and Boli Bolingoli Mbombo who weren't risked at Parkhead against the same opposition. McGregor was allowed to play in his optimum position and the balance of the team was restored.
Another short corner from the left hand side was passed to Boli. His delightful curled chip was again met in even more space by Jullien, but disappointingly he got under the ball and it inched over the bar when he really should have scored the opener.
Christie - who was covering every blade of grass in an outstanding performance - picked up a loose ball in the centre of the park. He drifted across the park past a couple of Cluj midfielders to the right, then cut back in and played a lovely reverse ball to Forrest in acres of space on the right and bearing in on goal. His pass across goal was just behind the onrushing Edouard and the move fizzled out.
When the ball was cleared though the Cluj striker handled whilst trying to control the ball and the resultant free kick would see the start of the move that would lead to the opener. McGregor took the ball from Brown and clocked Boli moving at pace down the left hand flank. The pass McGregor supplied split the Cluj defence beautifully and Boli's pace saw him reach the ball just before it crossed the by-line. Boli somehow managed to chip a delightful ball right on to the head of French Eddy and he nodded the ball down past the despairing keeper and into the net for a well deserved lead after some sustained pressure.
McGregor was booked for a foul on the edge of the box in a very good position for Cluj. The resultant free kick was lashed in from the left foot of Deac and was parried by Forster. The ball came back out to Rondon who had strayed offside from the original free kick and he passed towards Daniel Boli who knocked it into the net from another offside position. The "goal" was correctly ruled out and the score remained at one nil.
A quick break from Omrani on the left was threaded into Rondon who broke in on the edge of the box past Jullien before dramatically going down looking for a penalty. It was a disgraceful attempt at conning the referee and the striker was booked for his cheating.
The second half started brightly. Christie's tenacity led to him robbing Bordieanu in midfield and the ball broke to an open Forrest on the right wing. A clever nutmeg on the edge of the box saw him drive in on goal and his shot come cross, was not on target or sufficiently deep enough to allow Elyounoussi to get close enough for a touch to direct it on goal and it sailed despairingly past.
Elyounoussi showed his battling skills in a similar position to the earlier Christie tackle, and set off to the right to play an absolutely exquisite pass bent in to the run of Forrest down the right. The little wing magician controlled and drove in to the box. He drew the defence to him before finding Elyounoussi with a pass to the edge of the box. the Norwegian took a touch which looked to be heading to the keepers right hand side, but a fortuitous deflection took it into the opposite corner where it found the open net for a magnificent second goal.
Cluj were looking more dangerous and found more space inside the box on the right but a really well timed tackle by Jullien, going to ground in the box, saw another move snuffed out.
Celtic broke through more fine play between Elyounoussi and Forrest. Forrest drove on and stepped inside to unleash a shot on target but it lacked any real pace and the keeper easily saved and gathered after initially spilling the effort.
The game was opening up and another nice run by Elyounossi led to a good cross narrowly missed by Christie at the front post.
Christie again came close with a tricky run past a couple of defenders but his shot went past the keepers post.
Some tough tackling and slack play in midfield led to a one two between Edouard and Forrest and the goal opened up for the French striker, but his shot from 18 yards sailed over the bar on 85 minutes.
Celtic take the three points and lead the table after two games in the group with a very creditable 4 points from 2 games. This though was a dominating performance that gives a great platform for the remainder of the campaign. Seldom have we looked so confident and controlled in Europe as we have in the last two games. Neil Lennon seems to have the players playing with a style suited to European football in a way that Brendan Rodgers never managed to accomplish. If we can keep these performance levels up, the future looks bright in this competition.
European competition after Christmas looks a distinct possibility!!